Sky NewsDay – ALP election review, child care subsidy debt

Thursday, 07 November 2019

TOM CONNELL: Time now for our political panel, Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Jason Falinski, thank you both for your time. We better start with that Labor Review, Amanda Rishworth I’m sure you’ve scoured through your copy already. Weak strategy that could not adapt to a change in leadership, cluttered policy agenda, unpopular leader, do you agree with everything you’ve read so far?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I think this review is really important, I think if you just keep making the same mistakes and don’t learn from the past then that’s a problem. So I think this review does provide some really important information that can help guide us going towards the next election. That’s where my focus now firmly is, we’ve had the review and we’ve had a lot of discussion, now our job is to get on and hold this government to account. It’s a bad government and one of the things that was in the review was the comment that the government was a very bad government, and part of our important role is to make sure the focus is on the government and the mistakes that they’re making.

CONNELL: It was written by Labor figures so maybe not breaking news that particular observation. Nonetheless it did also talk about policy being cluttered Amanda Rishworth, saying there’s nothing wrong with bold policy but fewer policies will need to be taken to the next election. Does that mean a smaller target from Labor? I know you’re not saying a small target, but smaller?

RISHWORTH: I think obviously as we work towards the next election we’ll have to have a very good look, but of course one of the things is if you have policy out there you need to make sure the electorate knows about it. If there are people and groups who benefit from our policies, then we need the time and the space to make sure that in an election context –

CONNELL: Right but that means there’s only so many you can explain, so it’s fewer policies and a smaller target.

RISHWORTH: Well as I said we’ll have our policy agenda going forward, but as the review said it was often very complex, there were a lot of them, there were questions about the timing. So our fundamental challenge is to make sure we develop good policies, but importantly make sure the electorate knows about them, know about how they will benefit, and I think that’s an important part of our challenge going forward. In a cluttered news day it is hard to cut through but that’s what we’ve got to do.

CONNELL: Jason Falinski on behalf of a bad government what do you make of the report?

JASON FALINSKI, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR MACKELLAR: I haven’t read it actually Tom. You know I feel for Labor, I’m a member of the Liberal Party, we’ve lost our fair share of unlosable elections and these are very difficult periods, but I hope for the country as a whole that Labor has the review and re-joins the battle for ideas, because it makes the Parliament and our nation a better place. So let’s hope Amanda’s right and they can put this behind them and re-join that battle.

CONNELL: I’m used to you throwing more barbs, maybe you’re missing your usual offsider. What about the lessons for the Liberal Party here? Labor’s not going to be seemingly as complacent as it was, the report basically said it never shifted its attack from Malcolm Turnbull onto Scott Morrison. Clearly Labor is not going to indulge in any more hubris before the next election, so there’s a little warning for you guys as well too.

FALINKSI: Well as I say the Parliament is best when everyone’s kept no their toes. I mean I don’t agree with that proposition, I think Bill Shorten was a very good Leader of the Opposition. It was a very willing Parliament, one would almost say that maybe too willing, and Labor really took no prisoners in the last term of Parliament. So I don’t think that’s actually a fair reflection on Labor in Opposition in the last Parliament or on Bill Shorten as Leader of the Opposition.

CONNELL: Is that you starting the get Bill back campaign?

FALINSKI: You are such a cynic Tom and on this day of all days I would expect better from you.

CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth what does it say about Bill Shorten, is he electable?

RISHWORTH: The review really said there’s no one aspect that lead to Labor’s defeat. It identified there were issues around popularity, and of course that is an issue for all Opposition Leaders, it is a really tough gig. It also identified that there were some strengths around Bill’s ability to beat Scott Morrison in all three debates. So it is a difficult, challenging role to be Opposition Leader but certainly the review didn’t identify just one factor, it identified a lot of factors and I think that’s important to recognise.

CONNELL: Anyway we had Jay Weatherill saying he’s not unelectable in his particular point of view. Jason Falinski as for the government –

FALINKSI: A very good government.

CONNELL: The excellent government you claim to be.

FALINSKI: You’ve admitted as much too.

RISHWORTH: Debatable.

CONNELL: Best placed to handle the economy. Amidst all this there’s a lot of calls for economic reform and you’re for this as well. Dominic Perrottet now saying this is the time, I mean we haven’t had major reform under the Coalition yet have we?

FALINSKI: No I think we’ve had some major reform under the Coalition Government, but what Dom Perrottet is talking about and what some other State Leaders are starting to sort of talk about or putting their toes in the water if I can put it that way, is our Federation has a problem where the Commonwealth raises 80 per cent of the taxes but the States do 80 per cent of the spending. And that disconnect in our Federation is leading to some sub-optimal outcomes as Economists like to say, and I think this is a big opportunity where you’ve got clearly a reforming Treasurer in Dominic Perrottet in New South Wales, leading other Treasurers in this discussion about how can we reform Commowealth and State relationships to create a system that is more dynamic and encourages the States to undertake more economic reform than they currently are.

CONNELL: Is what you’re after here for the States to come as a cohort, whether it’s all of them or perhaps all minus one, and the Federal Government says right well you’re on board so we can actually talk about the detail now?

FALINSKI: Well look the whole point of federations a system of government is the separation of powers, it’s meant to be difficult to govern because you want to divide the power that governments have for various reasons. And so this is not going to be easy, it does require the States to come to the table with good will and people understanding that there will be winners and losers but overall the nation will be better off. And I think this is a moment where we should really press forward and undertake a serious conversation on that, and not waste this moment in time.

CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth is Labor open to the conversation at least?

RISHWORTH: Obviously making our federation work better and having better cooperation between the States and Territories is important. That was something we did in government, who would’ve thought it would’ve been so hard to get a national curriculum, which has actually served our country very well and importantly our students well. And I think that’s where I would want to be focusing on, is what are the outcomes? What are the outcomes for our nation and what are the outcomes for communities? It is important in any of these types of reforms to carefully look at those communities that could be left behind. I think as Jason said there is often winners and losers but we can’t just for example say well this State is performing well so they’ll get all the money, they’ll get all the economic activity. We’ve got to make sure there is balance across the country and communities are not left to wither on the vine.

CONNELL: I want to touch on child care Amanda Rishworth, your area. We have a situation where the new subsidy and system and the way it’s working at the moment, about 90,000 could be asked at least to pay back a debt. It’s been described as partly an IT glitch, what do you make of this?

RISHWORTH: It’s very, very concerning, we’ve had many families contact me about problems with owing a debt to the Commonwealth. And many families are saying they don’t actually think they have a debt, and when they’ve rung up and chased it down, they actually haven’t had a debt. But the letter doesn’t say that, the letter just says you owe a debt and I’m worried that many families are seeing this and just paying the debt, when indeed they don’t owe the Commonwealth anything. And we’ve had one example that’s come to our attention where the individual was told three times they didn’t have a debt, but continued to be pursued. Partly it comes back to an IT glitch, but it also comes back to the complexity of the system.

CONNELL: It’s been simplified so one payment instead of two, you have a situation with these types of payments where you need to ask people what are you going to earn, and some people don’t have a smooth income to be able to estimate what they get. That’s always going to be the case, it’s going to be a system that has those sort of ups and downs. So there’s nothing wrong in of itself is there with the government asking for that money back, it’s just got to do that in the right way, is that what you’re saying? And not be inaccurate?

RISHWORTH: No I think there’s a couple of issues, one is the IT glitch which is an issue, but when we’re talking about 1 in 6 families owing a debt to the Commonwealth surely we can do it better. Because families don’t have this extra money in their pocket, in fact they’ve never received any of the child care subsidy in their bank account, this money has gone directly to providers. So I think when we’re saying 1 in 6 families so far have received a debt, we need to have a look at the system. Now families are telling me that they are reporting –

CONNELL: Well how do we know it’s not people on their estimates, either not being honest or forgetting to change things?

RISHWORTH: Many people’s circumstances are changing. What these families are telling us is they ring Centrelink and update their details straight away, whether that’s activity or income. In fact we had one example where the individual in question thought she’d be really cautious and overestimate by $20,000 of income. She thought that would surely cover her and she ended up with a debt. Because people’s lives aren’t simple these days, they do go up and down, their hours go up and down, their income goes up and down. We need a system that is working for families and not lumping them with debt at the end of the financial year.

CONNELL: It would have to be a bit of a worry Jason Falinski, nothing annoys voters more than this type of failure in government services.

FALINSKI: Look Tom Amanda’s absolutely right, the whole idea of these changes was to simplify the system and make it easier for families to get back into the workforce, and to make sure early childhood education was reaching as many people as possible and the availability was as high as possible. In any changeover you’re going to have times when it doesn’t necessarily work out as well as you wanted it to, call it an IT glitch, call it a misunderstanding by users. So this is occurring as people are putting in their tax return, my understanding is 87 per cent of people are actually receiving top up payments because their estimates were on the low side, so they’re getting more money. 13 per cent of people are being told they’ve actually been overpaid and they need to pay some back, of which I understand 24 families have put in a formal review application for that. If Amanda has specific examples, of course the Minister and the Department will immediately look at that. Our primary goal is to make sure we get this right, and if there are problems as you say Tom they don’t continue into the future. So we’re primarily aimed at making sure child care is extended to as many people as possible, so that it benefits as many Australian families as possible.

CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth, Jason Falinski, we’ll leave it there thank you.

More News

Thursday, 07 November 2019
A Current Affair – Child Care Subsidy Debt
Tuesday, 05 November 2019
Families around the country are being told they owe a Centrelink debt that might not be theirs
Monday, 04 November 2019
ABC National News – Child care subsidy debt